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Spurs 3-0 Apoel: Four Lilywhite Conclusions

1. Big Night for Llorente

Greeted with half-hearted shrugs and myriad empty seats though this meaningless dead rubber might have been to the naked eye, last night’s joust was absolutely loaded to bursting point with meaning for various members of the supporting cast.

Chief amongst them was senor Llorente, who, pretty much since stepping through the hallowed gates of N17, has been haunted at every turn by the ghosts of Messrs Janssen, Soldado, Postiga and various others, all giving him knowing looks and pointedly clearing their throats every time he misses a gilt-edged chance.

His frightful lack of goalscoring form has really not done anyone any favours, because while he was never about to bustle Harry Kane out of the starting line-up, as sure as night follows day we needed someone confident and at least minimally capable to strap on the pads and hold up an end for meaningless cup fixtures and maybe the occasional straightforward league jamboree. In short, the chap needed a goal like bally-o, and we all needed it every ounce as much.

Fortunately, cometh the hour, cometh the meek kitten that obligingly rolled over to have its tummy tickled. Forget the pre-game civilities – Apoel peddled absolute rot throughout. So far, so good. However, the whole operation still required Llorente himself to raise a finger and press the button at the appropriate junction, and mercifully he did so with élan. His first touch, swivel and execution were all right on the money, and while he might not win any Goal of the Season competition for his strike, it was still a nifty piece of duck-and-weave, and one he won’t object to seeing replayed a few times back at casa Ll.

An honourable mention too, to his general all-round play, although we all knew about that already. As at the Bernabeu a couple of months back, the strapping blighter displayed a remarkably delicate – and geographically-minded – touch about him, producing all manner of weighted lay-offs and cushioned headers for his strike partner, to the tune of one goal and one assist. I’m not sure he will ever fit the uniform of a bona fide impact sub, but as a Sheringham played from the start he has a definite value.

2. A Big Night for Foyth, Aided and Abetted by Sanchez

Life in the heart of our defence has been subject to some pretty merciless scrutiny ever since Toby Alderweireld limped off a few weeks back, for the whole defensive cast has had the look of The A-Team without Mr T since his departure.

Quite rightly, our glorious leader opted to treat Messrs Vertonghen and Dier to a night out at their nearest watering hole rather than put them through another 90 minutes of injury-risk, and as a result we switched to a back-four, and a central defensive pairing, of young Messrs Foyth and Sanchez.

First things first, they were certainly not up against Neymar and Messi, but one can only play the ball one is bowled, and to their credit those two rarely put a foot wrong. Sanchez may have been the senior partner, but Foyth demonstrated the confidence to bring the ball out, or occasionally step forward and intercept, and all was relatively rosy in the defensive garden.

It does not really solve the problem of replacing Toby, but we now at least have a pairing who can spare Dier and Vertonghen the need for duty during FA Cup engagements, so this was another box ticked.

3. A Big Night for Georges-Kevin N’Koudou

To date, GKN’s appearances have tended to take the form of a desperate wish for him to be the sort of impact sub he really isn’t. Every time his spring is wound up, and then released as he enters the pitch, I get the impression that this might literally be the first time he has every played football with team-mates. This chap has been brought up on a strict diet of the playground game of “Wembley Singles” (other names presumably exist), whereby each player is on his own, and is tasked with dribbling past literally everybody else and scoring, in order to progress to the next round. Passing is eradicated from the exercise.

Thus it was last night, and thus it ever was, with GKN. There’s an uncut diamond lurking inside there, if you get my drift, for the chap has pace, and a trick or two, but there is a crushing inevitability about the fact that ultimately it will all come to nought. Apart from the time his shot caught a rather natty deflection and landed proudly in the net.

Congrats to him for living the dream, but whatever the question (and I think it is “How the devil do we unpick a massed defence – do we have a dribbler who could peddle his wares to drag opponents out of position?”) GKN is still not the answer.

4. Son > Dele?

In a season that has begun to drift pretty dangerously in recent weeks, one of the absolute blazing beacons of light within the whole shipwreck has been everyone’s favourite Korean. He was at it again yesterday, buzzing around hither and thither, and showing the sort of movement in between the opposition defence and midfield that presumably had the aforementioned defence and midfield scratching their heads and saying “What ho, who the devil is supposed to be marking that blur of movement?”

While Dele continues that same tired trick of hanging on to the ball for far too long and then being disposed while trying something fancy, Son, in the same supporting striker role, makes the opposition work for their wage, and chips in with a lovely line in curled finishes, which start outside the post and spin inside the net.

He was at it again yesterday, in much the same way as he is at it every time he is selected, and it would be a thoroughly understandable call if he were selected as the support man to Kane, leaving Dele on the sidelines, to contemplate the physics of a fall from grace.

What ho ho ho! AANP’s own book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, would make quite the stocking filler, and is available at Amazon.

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